Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Race Report: Soma 70.2

Plan the work and work the plan!

The thing about triathlons is they change you, forever. Whoever you think you are when you first sign up for a race will be vastly different from who crosses the finish line. It starts with the small challenges from day to day training: getting up when you don’t want to, pushing through an injury, and putting in the time and dedication day after day. All these little obstacles start to erode away at who you think you are and what you think you’re made of. Then there is the actual race or victory lap if you will. In every race there is always some twist to make it harder than you thought it would be. At my first race it was 6-7 foot waves during the swim, the second race it was a super hilly course for both the bike and the run and this race it was the heat with temperatures close to 90 at the end of the day. Yup, sign up for any race, any length and I guarantee you the person you are that day will be forever changed!

Pre Race Random Thoughts - I started this year out signing up for a sprint but ended up doing a sprint, an Olympic and a half Ironman. Reflecting back on who I was in January as I ventured into this crazy world I see myself more timid mentally and physically. It’s as if triathlons sort of ripped away this outer shell of me and I had to toughen up to survive. The Ironman’s saying is, “Anything is possible”. As I sat in our room the night before I contemplated that deeply. That statement couldn't be truer. I realized that if I picked any dream in the world, any goal I wanted and dedicated as much time and energy to it as I have to racing…anything would and could be possible. Let me tell you, that is a very powerful feeling.

I also have to thank my husband who in January said he would divorce me if I became one of those “triathlete weirdos”. As I began training for my first sprint he decided to train with me, you know just for the sake of training. Well someone signed him up for the sprint with me *cough* on our anniversary and he ended up racing. He skipped the OC Tri and then someone signed him up for the half Ironman. We had a bit of a starring contest after I told him that I registered him and he had 4 months to get ready.

Like I said triathlons change you and as a couple through the last four months we have pushed through our battles and training together. We woke up every weekend at o’dark thirty to get out and get the time in, we helped each other through injuries and we constantly pushed each other to be better, faster and stronger. As we sat like prisoners in the hotel room the night before I looked over at him packing his tri bag and thought this man must really really love me.

Ok longest introduction ever…onto the race stuff!

Swim: 1.2 miles – It’s really hard to be calm when you have over 1,000 competitors getting ready to race. Bill from Team FC came over as we were setting up and wished us luck. It seems silly but having a familiar face out of a sea of unknown faces was really comforting. I heard my sister Rose in my head also telling me to be calm and to breathe. We suited up and headed over to the start. I hugged Brad and told him I was sorry I got him in this mess. Just as I was pretty sure I was going to be sick and throw up Michelle came over next to me and starting talking to me. My stomach settled and I moved myself into position in the pack. Rose had told me to stay to the back and the outside and let the faster people get out ahead.

As we head down the steps into the water my brain shuts off. It’s always baffling to me how quiet it is in my head at the start. I know the crowd was cheering as we headed off but oddly I heard nothing. And then I am swimming. I heard my coach Joby telling me to start off strong and settle into a nice even pace so that’s what I do.

T1 – Coming out of the water is always disorienting but again I hear Rose telling me not to dilly dally and so I am running through the transition area to my bike. I grab my BMK bar and gel and I am running with my bike. I have a hard time clipping into my bike and start peddling not clipped in.

Bike: 56 miles – I feel really good heading out on the bike. For the first 15 minutes I am trying to just get situated and find an easy rhythm. This is when I realize I haven’t set up my Garmin the way I want and I can’t read my time, my speed and my heart rate all on one screen. In a race situation these are the kinds of little details that can throw me into a panic. I decide to just stick with my heart rate and follow Jobys plan.
It was hard to not go all out on the bike. I love to ride my bike fast! In my head I just kept repeating I am only here to run a half marathon…I’m only here to run a half marathon. The first and second loop went by uneventfully. I kept up with my hydration and nutrition and I was feeling really good. By the third lap though, it was starting to heat up. About half way through I starting feeling nauseous and dizzy. This is where the battle becomes more mental than physical. The negative little voice in my head said go ahead and quit…just stop and watch the rest of the race. Then I remembered at the top of one of the hills there was an aid station and so I told myself to push through and then I would stop there and get some Gatorade and stand in the shade for a minute.

This was a tough decision for me because I knew it would affect my time on the last lap. In the end I decided to sacrifice the time and treat myself to the Gatorade. It’s in these moments that every little detail becomes exaggerated. For example this Gatorade was the best drink I ever had in my whole life. The girls at the aid station were so nice and supportive my heart was filled with such gratitude and it pushed me back on the bike. I tried to push hard on the last little bit of the bike course since it was mostly downhill and a good spot to make up lost time.

T2 – I got off the bike feeling good. I ran into transition. I had mistakenly left all my bars in the sun and when I tried to eat a little bite I almost throw up (sorry Rose but I don’t think I can eat anymore BMK bars for at least 6 months!). I made a quick decision to get my nutrition and hydration from each aid station and not carry my own.

Run: 13.1 miles – I head out on the run and I feel surprisingly good. I am silently thanking Joby for all the transition runs off the bike. My mother and father in law, Chuck and Cathy, were right there cheering me on! Slowly I pulled away from the crowd and was left with my own thoughts. Again, I can’t get my Garmin to read right and I can’t find my pace. This really messes with my head because I have a specific plan and pace to follow. I have to talk to myself and calm down and really try to remember what each pace feels like.

Shortly after I came through the first aid station and dumped ice down my top and shorts, Michelle came running up along side of me. She was on her second lap and I envied her for how relaxed, calm and strong she looked! She gave me a brilliant smile and some encouragement and was off. I saw her do this to a couple more athletes and was more than impressed. That is one of the great things about triathletes, they are always encouraging others out on the race. It is an amazing community of people all the way from the pros down to the beginners.

Halfway through the first lap I start feeling like this is too far and too hot. Here comes that negative little voice again..go ahead and quit..just start walking…no one will know…just give up. Up ahead I spot Kevin Rausch. I decide I am going to try to catch up to him and say hi. It takes my mind off the heat and I finally catch up. Hands down the easiest 5 minutes of the run was chatting with him about the race, the day and random things. As we go through the aid station we separate and I silently wish him luck.

The second lap is torture. I know how far I have to go and the heat seems to have tripled. I stop at each aid station getting water, Gatorade and ice each time. I make sure that I get a bar or an orange every other time. The bars taste like warm chocolate chip cookies and I start to live for this. It really is the little things that start to matter!

The last 3 miles are tough. My feet are so hot from the sidewalk that it feels like I have blisters all over the bottom of each. My knees, hips and low back are starting to get really tight and ache. Bottom line I hurt all over and this just became not fun anymore. I want to cry but my pride won’t let me.

As I come up to the last aid station I know I am close. I put on my game face and head in. I can hear the music and the crowd and it spurs me on. The other racers have already long finished and moved over to the awards tent. As I run past, fellow athletes clap and shout out words of encouragement. I round the corner and my husband and parents are shouting and smiling at me as I come down the finish shoot. One of the volunteers hands me a water and ice cold towel and makes a joke about how I did this long race and all I get is this free towel. If I had had any energy left I would have laughed because that was funny!

Final Thoughts – I really haven’t had time to process it all yet. The one thing that comes to me over and over is that it’s not about the destination but the journey. Through this last year I have met a great group of people, I have accomplished things I thought I never could, I have overcome obstacles, fought through injuries and grew into my new skin. Where will I go from here? I have no idea yet. What I do know is that anything is possible.